Places

About
Foundation
Partner Schools
Print Archive
Peer Review
Submissions
Donate
Contact


Departments

Critique
Essays
Gallery
Interviews
Multimedia
Partner News
Peer Reviewed
Poetry & Fiction
Projects


Topics

Architecture
Art
Books
Cities + Places
Community
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Film + Video
Food
Geography
Health + Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Infrastructure
Landscape
Photography
Planning
Politics + Policy
Preservation
Public + Private
Reputations
Sustainability
Technology
Transportation
Urbanism
Water



Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact




Gallery: Alejandro Cartagena & Aaron Rothman

Fragmented Cities




Alejandro Cartagena first became aware of the effects of rapid urbanization in Monterrey, Mexico, when he was a teenager. Working at his parent’s restaurant in Ciudad Benito Juarez, which had until recently been a small town, he saw business boom, but also crime and corruption. He noticed that the open spaces that had been his childhood playgrounds were being invaded by row upon row of small single-family houses. He began photographing the growing city, documenting the quickly disappearing natural landscapes. His eye soon turned to the housing developments as well. Cartagena’s series, Fragmented Cities, presented here, explores the recent sprawl surrounding Monterrey, capturing the ubiquity and strangeness of these places as well as the uncomfortable way they occupy the landscape.




Over the past two decades, the twelve cities comprising the Monterrey metropolitan area have grown exponentially, creating a vast urban region of nearly four million. Ciudad Benito Juarez, for example, grew from 20,000 in 1990 to a current population of 200,000. This rapid horizontal expansion has been fueled by the usual real-estate suspects: cheap land, the efficiencies of production home building, the easy availability of mortgages for low and mid-income families (through the government-run lender Infonavit), the romance of home ownership, not to mention political corruption. The effects have been predictable: physical holes in the urban fabric, a hollowed-out city center, long commutes, air pollution. The housing developments in Cartagena’s photographs are generally lower-income. They are located far from established infrastructure, schools, transportation and retail. The residents, who mostly work in factories or as part of the underground economy, may have to walk several miles to reach a bus line. The houses are often less than 500 square feet, and sited on lots less than 800 square feet. It is hard to predict the future of these neighborhoods. In Cartagena’s photographs, they are new and empty — they look like a strange species of habitation, taken out of time.

— Aaron Rothman

Editors' Note

Later this winter, Places will present Alejandro Cartagena's Lost Rivers series, which looks at the effects of rapid urbanization on the natural environment in Monterrey.
Share This Story

RELATED POSTS


Occupy: What Architecture Can Do


What I Learned from Architect Barbie


The Irrational Exuberance of Rem Koolhaas


Jorge Otero-Pailos and the Ethics of Preservation


Fundamental #13



RSSSubscribe to Comment Feed

Comments (2)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

Circuit Gallery is very pleased to be presenting a solo exhibition of large format works from Cartagena's "Suburbia Mexicana" project for the upcoming CONTACT 2011 Photography Festival in Toronto.

Featured exhibition
ALEJANDRO CARTAGENA: Suburbia Mexicana: Cause and Effect
345 Sorauren Avenue, Toronto ON, M6R 2G5

Exhibition Dates: 28 April - 29 May, 2011
Opening Reception: 5 May, 2011, 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Various editions of Cartagena's work are also available online through Circuit Gallery --> http://www.circuitgallery.com


claire
01.28.11 at 09:05

Great images, and a very interesting story about a complicated economy that serves (somewhat) as a gateway to the US during a crippling drug war. But I'm amazed to see twenty photos and not even a mention of the hurricane that cut through the center of the city almost a year ago, destroying a vast central parkland and cutting most of the bridges, thus doubling or tripling travel time through most of the city.

Would also be interesting to see a report on the city's attempt to nurture an art & design scene - there are lots of admirable public sculptures, some very nice museums, and a growing design school, CEDIM (which is the reason I was there).
daniel erwin
01.29.11 at 01:32



LOG IN TO POST A COMMENT
Don't have an account? Create an account. Forgot your password? Click here.

Email


Password




Donate to Places: Your Support Makes Our Work Possible



ABOUT THE SLIDESHOW

A selection of images by Monterrey-based photographer Alejandro Cartagena, documenting the disappearing natural landscapes of the rapidly growing city.
View Slideshow >>

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aaron Rothman’s photographs, video and installation artwork explore perceptual experience of space in both natural and built environments.
More Bio >>

Alejandro Cartagena is a photographer. He was born in the Dominican Republic and now lives and works in Monterrey, Mexico.
More Bio >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









MORE ON Suburbia


The Highway Not Taken: Tony Smith and the Suburban Sublime
On Places, David Salomon explores the life and work of the artist and architect Tony Smith — including his mid-career epiphany on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Beautiful and Terrible: Aeriality and the Image of Suburbia
On Places, D.J. Waldie explores the relationship between aerial photography and the postwar suburban boom, a relationship at once materialistic and transcendent, "beautiful and terrible."

Above Lake Las Vegas
On Places, aerial photographs of the bankrupt luxury communities of Lake Las Vegas, by Michael Light.

The Housing Question
On Places, a debate inspired by the MoMA exhibition Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream, organized by the Buell Center and Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility.

We Are in a Western Town
On Places, Aaron Rothman explores the enduring power of the photographs of Robert Adams, and what they reveal about the paradoxical landscape of the American West.

Manifest Destiny: A Guide to the Essential Indifference of American Suburban Housing
On Places, British architect Jason Griffiths offers a close reading of modern American suburbia, where mass production meets the myth of the arcadian frontier.

Beyond Foreclosure: The Future of Suburban Housing
On Places, Aron Chang argues that the foreclosure crisis highlights the need to transform suburban housing — to make it responsive not to dated demographics and wishful economics but to the actual needs of a diversifying and dynamic population.

An Excerpt from S P R A W L
On Places, a passage from Danielle Dutton's comic novel S P R A W L, which pieces together a theory of the American suburb.

Scenes from Surrendered Homes
On Places, urban historian Alex Schafran looks closely at Douglas Smith's photographs of foreclosed homes in California, and sees poignant documentation of the personal toll of the great recession.

MORE BY Aaron Rothman

06.02.14: Makeshift Metropolis
05.05.14: Landscape and Memory
02.18.14: Landscape Forensics
12.09.13: Life of the Party
09.12.13: Landscape and Illusion
07.18.13: Resurveying the West
05.23.13: Barranca
05.02.13: Expect Everything
03.28.13: Blind Views
12.06.12: Above Lake Las Vegas
More by Aaron Rothman >>